Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(5)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(5)
Author: L.J. Smith

Bram Stoker and Henry Irving open new play at the Lyceum . . . Sir Charles Ainsley invites guests to his West End House . . .

Samuel Mortimer rumored to be running for London Councillor . . . dashing Count DeSangue seen out on the town at the supper club the Journeyman with lovely lady of the stage Charlotte Dumont.

I felt my stomach clench with recognition. It was exactly as I expected. Seeing the words was a clear sign that Damon was stil haunting me; a sign I couldn't attribute to my dream, an overactive imagination, or too much sherry the night before. Because even though Damon hated me more than anything, it didn't change the fact that I was his brother. I'd known him my whole life. As children, I could sense that he'd have a fight with Father even before it happened. There would be tension crackling in the air, as evident as clouds before a storm. I could tel when he was angry, even if he was smiling at al our friends, and I always knew when he was frightened, even though he'd never, ever say it. Even as vampires, something deep within me was stil connected to his moods. And whether he knew it or not, he was in trouble.

I scanned the rest of the column, but that was the only mention of Damon. The rest was about lords and dukes and earls, which must have been Damon's newest set. Not that I was surprised. London, with its endless parties and cosmopolitan atmosphere, had always struck me as a place Damon could end up. Human or demon, he'd always cut an impressive figure. And whether I liked it or not, he was my brother. The same blood ran through our veins. If I felt a pul toward England, wouldn't it make sense that he would, too?

I glanced down at the paper again.

Who was Charlotte Dumont? And where was the Journeyman? Maybe, if I had time in London after the solicitor's appointment, I'd head out on my own to find it. It would at least lay my uneasy feelings to rest. After al , I was sure he was drinking Charlotte Dumont's blood, but if that was the extent of Damon's misbehavior, who was I to say anything? And if he was doing something worse, wel . . . I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.

Across from me, George was stabbing his knife into the pat of butter. What he had in wealth and land, he lacked in table manners. But instead of repulsing me, his boorish behavior yanked me out of my head. Our eyes caught, and I sensed George appraising my grass-stained blue shirt and black slacks. They were the nicest clothes I owned, but I knew they made me look like a laborer.

"I think while we're in town, I might take you to my tailor. Have some suits made," George mused.

"Thank you, sir," I mumbled. We were getting closer to the city, and the scenery had changed from wide expanses of open land to clusters of low-roofed houses. "But I'd actual y like to explore the city on my own after the meeting. You see, I have some relations in London. If it's al right with you, I'd like to take a few days to see them. I'l be sure to mend that fence at the far end of the pasture as soon as I return," I lied. I'd never asked for days off. If George showed an ounce of hesitation, then I wouldn't go. But if he gave me his blessing, it was almost as if Fate was forcing me to find my brother.

"Wel , why didn't you say something earlier, boy?" George boomed. "I was worried about you, al alone in the world. It's always good to have relations, even if you don't get on with them. Because at the end of the day, you share a name; you share blood. It's good to know what they're up to."

"I suppose, sir," I said nervously. We were treading into dangerous territory. I'd never given him my real last name. Instead, he knew me as Stefan Pine. I'd chosen Pine not only because of its simplicity, but because I privately liked the idea of comparing myself to a pine tree: ever unchanging. It was a personal concession to my true nature. And so, I suppose, was Damon's personal choice of sobriquet.

"Take a week," George said.

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary on any count. I'm only planning to cal on my relatives for tea. And that's only if I can find them. But I do thank you," I said awkwardly.

"I'l tel you what," George said, leaning in toward me conspiratorial y. "I'l bring you to my tailor, buy you some suits, and you can impress the hel out of your relatives."

"No, th - " I stopped myself. "Yes, I'd like that," I said firmly. After al , Damon was always so concerned with appearances that I wanted to beat him at his own game. I wanted him to see me as a man who'd made a proud life. Damon could lie and cheat his way into any social circle, but it took hard work to develop trust with humans, and I had done just that. Maybe I could even serve as a good example, a subtle reminder to Damon that he didn't have to live a life devoid of meaning.

"It's the least I can do, son," George said, before we lapsed again into silence. The only noise in our cabin was the rhythmic chugging of the train and the smacking of George's lips. I sighed. I felt suddenly constrained in our cabin, and wished I were in the barn on the edge of the Manor, alone with my thoughts.

"Quiet today, aren't you? You were last night, too," George said, breaking the silence. He wiped his mouth with a napkin and pul ed the newspaper onto his lap.

"I suppose I am. I have a lot on my mind," I began. That might wel have been the understatement of the year. This morning, al I'd been able to think about was Katherine. And now, the idea of Damon being so close was driving me to distraction.

George nodded, an understanding expression in his watery blue eyes.

"You don't need to tel me about it. I know al men have secrets, but please know that you have a friend in me," George said seriously. Although he knew only a skeleton of my history - that I'd left my father and America because I didn't want to marry the woman he'd chosen for me -

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